The Madwoman Upstairs

 The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

Samantha Whipple is the last surviving descendant of the Bronte family. 
Her father, whose recent death is the topic of much rumor and speculation, was believed to have inherited a family fortune consisting of diaries, paintings, notebooks and first editions, a fortune believed to have been passed down to Samantha. She has never seen any of it, but her father's will is now in the hands of lawyers who have been trying unsuccessfully to get her to return their calls.

She enrolls at Oxford, where she is tutored by a handsome professor with whom she has a contentious relationship and for whom she has an unwanted attraction. Some of her father's books, Bronte novels full of his own notes, books that were supposed to have been lost in a fire, inexplicably begin showing up in random places around campus. Samantha must follow the clues to track down who is leaving them and why.   

What first drew me to this book was the literary mystery aspect; books about books are rarely not interesting to me. The best parts of this novel were the conversations between Samantha and her professor about the Bronte novels. I could have read a lot more of that. The mystery of the supposed fortune was also interesting, but the romance became in the end what the book was really about. I don't tend to read contemporary romances unless they are secondary storylines in more complicated plots, so I was sorry it took that direction. 

The ending I can only describe as underwhelming. The mystery of the appearing books was resolved in a way that meant little to the story, and the inheritance question just sort of fizzled out. After quite a promising start with a few nice twists, it came to an abrupt and unsatisfying end. There is an epilogue which basically says "and this happened" so we know the answer to at least one question, but others remain. I very much enjoyed the first three quarters of it but was disappointed with the finish.


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